Online Schools and Colleges in Tennessee

Accredited Degree Programs, Scholarships and Resources for Top Schools

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 62,000 first-time Tennessee undergraduates sought four-year degrees or certificates in 2016. Of these, 16,700 learners enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, equaling 5.4 percent of all students. That number rose to 55,100, or 17.7 percent, when including students enrolled in both online and on-campus courses. In response to this growing popularity, many colleges and universities are expanding their blended and online learning options. But with so many opportunities available now and in the future, how do students find the best one for them? Read on to learn the ins and outs of online colleges and universities in Tennessee.

Best Online Colleges in Tennessee 2020

Best Online Schools

In 2001, the TN eCampus program pioneered online education in the state. Distance learners can choose from more than 500 online programs at 13 community colleges and six state schools. An increasing number of students at public and private schools enroll in online courses. Nationwide, 33.7% of students took some distance learning courses in the fall of 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Online learning is a key factor in Tennessee's Drive to 55 plan, which aims for 55% of state residents to hold a college degree or certificate by 2025. This guide provides information about state initiatives and funding opportunities that support learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
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1 Roane State Community College Harriman, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 11 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 18% Financial Aid 7% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
2 Volunteer State Community College Gallatin, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 10 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 19% Financial Aid 7% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
3 Walters State Community College Morristown, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 6 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 20% Financial Aid 12% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
4 Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 6 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 11% Financial Aid 6% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
5 Columbia State Community College Columbia, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 4 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 24% Financial Aid 50% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
6 Dyersburg State Community College Dyersburg, TN Tuition $3,930 # of Online Programs 9 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 12% Financial Aid 29% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
7 Cleveland State Community College Cleveland, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 3 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 13% Financial Aid 25% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
8 Northeast State Community College Blountville, TN Tuition $3,744 # of Online Programs 6 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 20% Financial Aid 5% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
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1 Johnson University Knoxville, TN Tuition $13,000 # of Online Programs 10 Acceptance Rate 47% Graduation Rate 66% Financial Aid 82% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Students at Johnson University receive a degree designed to develop professional careers in areas of Christian faith. Online associate, bachelor's and graduate degree areas include intercultural studies, Biblical studies and leadership. Courses are self-paced and run for 7 weeks. Students can complete their bachelor's degree in 4 years and master's degree in 2 years. Transfer credit is accepted in some programs. Academic advising, virtual library services and faculty members are available as resources to all online students.

2 Union University Jackson, TN Tuition $29,320 # of Online Programs 5 Acceptance Rate 63% Graduation Rate 68% Financial Aid 100% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Union University offers students hybrid or online programs in business, education, ministry or nursing. Online degree programs range from an associate degree in professional studies to doctoral-level degrees in education. Earning an associate degree or master's degree can take less than two years and completing a bachelor's in organizational leadership or nursing studies can be completed in 18 months. Union awards college credit to students based on their life experience and all students are eligible for employer-paid tuition benefits, as well as other financial aid.

3 The University of Tennessee-Martin Martin, TN Tuition $7,680 # of Online Programs 10 Acceptance Rate 67% Graduation Rate 50% Financial Aid 58% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

The University of Tennessee-Martin welcomes international students, as well as domestic students in their online undergraduate and graduate programs. Online bachelor's degree programs include agricultural studies with concentrations in agribusiness or farm and ranch management. Some bachelor programs online take a full 4 years to complete, while the master's programs take up to 2 years. Transfer students can apply credits from previous college courses, as well as non-college credit toward their degrees. Professionals can also take courses in quality management systems, and there is an option to take online courses in legal studies to prepare future paralegals for the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) exam.

4 King University Briston, TN Tuition $25,798 # of Online Programs 14 Acceptance Rate 51% Graduation Rate 54% Financial Aid 89% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Online courses at King University are offered year-round, and this Christian college offers an accelerated format for online undergraduate programs that allows students to complete major coursework in 16 months. There are 12 entirely online programs for students interested in earning a bachelor's degree; master's degree programs in business administration, education with a focus on instructional leadership, and nursing; as well as an associate degree program in the arts. Current registered nurses can complete their bachelor's in nursing with King, and then earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) by concentrating as either a nurse educator or a nursing administrator. Transfer students can apply up to 76 credits toward their online bachelor's degrees. All students accepted at King are eligible for financial aid.

5 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, TN Tuition $20,520 # of Online Programs 13 Acceptance Rate 50% Graduation Rate 40% Financial Aid 100% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Lincoln Memorial University offers opportunities for students to earn higher degrees through an online program. In nursing, there is a program for registered nurses to earn their bachelor's degree. There are also programs for earning a Master of Business Administration in a hybrid or online format, with concentrations in management, marketing or sports management; or a master's degree in criminal justice. Two doctoral degree programs in health care can be completed in a hybrid format or entirely online. All graduate-level degree programs are designed to be completed by full-time students in 2 years. In-state and out-of-state distance learning students pay the same tuition rate for classes and semesters in their individual programs.

6 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN Tuition $21,500 # of Online Programs 5 Acceptance Rate 96% Graduation Rate 52% Financial Aid 99% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Freed-Hardeman University provides a Christian college experience to its students throughout their academic programs. Many classes are available in an online format, and the college offers a master's degree in business administration program completely online. Students can choose to earn an MBA, a dual bachelor's and master's degree in business, or an MBA in health care management. The MBA program can be completed in 1 year, with courses offered in 4- and 8-week sections. Online students are eligible for financial aid, and employees at corporations that partner with FHU may apply for corporate sponsorships to help pay for their online MBA.

7 University of Memphis Memphis, TN Tuition $7,488 # of Online Programs 34 Acceptance Rate 57% Graduation Rate 46% Financial Aid 44% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

The University of Memphis provides students with the opportunity to earn an online undergraduate or graduate degree in a range of fields such as business, health, humanities or social science through U of M Global. U of M Global accepts transfer credits and hybrid programs are available. Most programs and classes are self-paced, with students completing their graduation and credit requirements in their own time and on their own schedules. Online students pay the same tuition costs as residents.

8 Bethel University McKenzie, TN Tuition $9,305 # of Online Programs 8 Acceptance Rate 67% Graduation Rate 38% Financial Aid 77% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Bethel University offers online degrees for undergraduate and graduate students at campuses across Tennessee. Programs follow a hybrid format, combining distance learning with campus intensives held a few times a year. The college provides seminary online programs and teaches from a Christian perspective. Enrollment counselors can help students transfer credits and adult learners have the opportunity to apply relevant experience towards their degree.

9 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville, TN Tuition $10,858 # of Online Programs 15 Acceptance Rate 77% Graduation Rate 71% Financial Aid 47% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Registered nurses can earn their bachelor's degree in nursing online through the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Undergraduate students can take coursework through hybrid programs that combine on-campus and off-campus learning. The college also offers a range of graduate degrees and certificate programs for online students in the areas of mathematics, information science, education, health, agriculture and human sciences. Online master's degrees in engineering are available in civil engineering with concentrations in public works or transportation; environmental engineering; industrial systems engineering; and mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering. Admission requirements for online graduate degree programs vary by department. Some courses are synchronous, while others are self-directed with set deadlines for students. Transfer students can apply previous credits to their degree. Out-of-state online students pay in-state course fees and reduced out-of-state tuition.

10 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN Tuition $7,032 # of Online Programs 4 Acceptance Rate 67% Graduation Rate 51% Financial Aid 53% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

Undergraduate students can earn one of two bachelor's degrees through Tennessee Technological University and current professionals may seek a graduate degree in their field through the university's online master's programs. The available online bachelor's degrees are in professional studies and interdisciplinary studies, and online graduate degrees include a master's in business, accounting, exercise science, education, science in nursing and professional studies. Program lengths vary but are usually 30 to 46 credit hours, and most can be completed by full-time students within a year. Distance learning students must live in a SARA-approved state to earn their online degree from TTU. Nursing students can participate in TTU's bridge program to earn their MSN. However, this degree requires in-person residency requirements, which can be completed close to home while attending online classes.

11 Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville, TN Tuition $23,724 # of Online Programs 9 Acceptance Rate 72% Graduation Rate 52% Financial Aid 97% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
12 Lipscomb University Nashville, TN Tuition $27,472 # of Online Programs 3 Acceptance Rate 61% Graduation Rate 63% Financial Aid 98% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
13 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN Tuition $6,672 # of Online Programs 13 Acceptance Rate 92% Graduation Rate 46% Financial Aid 29% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
14 Lee University Cleveland, TN Tuition $15,170 # of Online Programs 13 Acceptance Rate 87% Graduation Rate 56% Financial Aid 78% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
15 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chattanooga, TN Tuition $6,768 # of Online Programs 3 Acceptance Rate 78% Graduation Rate 43% Financial Aid 39% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
16 Bryan College Dayton, TN Tuition $24,450 # of Online Programs 4 Acceptance Rate 42% Graduation Rate 53% Financial Aid 95% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
17 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN Tuition $6,216 # of Online Programs 18 Acceptance Rate 89% Graduation Rate 40% Financial Aid 23% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service No Counseling Services Yes
18 Carson-Newman University Jefferson City, TN Tuition $25,200 # of Online Programs 18 Acceptance Rate 63% Graduation Rate 48% Financial Aid 99% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
19 Cumberland University Lebanon, TN Tuition $20,160 # of Online Programs 4 Acceptance Rate 49% Graduation Rate 39% Financial Aid 67% Credit For Experience Yes Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
20 Tennessee State University Nashville, TN Tuition $6,215 # of Online Programs 8 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 46% Financial Aid 32% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
21 Welch College Nashville, TN Tuition $17,920 # of Online Programs 3 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate 38% Financial Aid 82% Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes
22 Pentecostal Theological Seminary Cleveland, TN Tuition $2,400 # of Online Programs 4 Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience No Placement Service Yes Counseling Services Yes

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How Can I Find Which Online Colleges Offer the Degree I'm Looking for in Tennessee?

Tennessee schools offer many online programs, and prospective students should consider their career goals when choosing the best option. To narrow down your list of prospective schools, look for institutions that offer your desired degree program, and only consider accredited schools.

You can search the TN eCampus website from the College System of Tennessee to learn about online degree and certificate programs. You can also click the link below for details about online schools and colleges in Tennessee.

How Much More Do College Grads in Tennessee Make?

College graduates typically have more employment opportunities than individuals without a degree. Workers aged 25 to 35 who hold a bachelor's degree or higher enjoy an 86% employment rate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Earning potential also increases with degree level. Bachelor's degree-holders in the state earn an average of $67,426 a year, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The table below illustrates the nationwide correlation between salary and educational attainment.

Annual Full-Time Wage and Salary by Educational Attainment in the U.S.
Less Than a High School Diploma High School Diploma Associate Degree
$28,756 $37,960 $44,824
Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree Doctoral Degree
$62,296 $74,568 $94,900

Source: BLS

Paying for Online College in Tennessee: Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition at online schools and colleges in Tennessee costs less than the national average. The Tennessee Promise program offers free tuition at state community colleges and technical centers for students who meet income requirements. However, participating students must pay for housing, textbooks, and other education-related expenses. The following table compares average in-state and out-of-state tuition rates in Tennessee to the national averages.

Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Public Colleges and Universities
In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition National Average
$7,924 $20,061

$9,037 (In-State)

$25,657 (Out-of-State)
Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Private Colleges and Universities
Tuition Out-of-State Tuition National Average
$26,939 N/A $30,731

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Cost Considerations for Online Students in Tennessee

The figures above do not include additional expenses. Although distance learners often save money on costs such as housing and transportation, many schools charge online students additional fees. Below are a few cost considerations for learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.

Activity Fee: Many schools charge a fee to cover the cost of on-campus student organizations, activities, and events.
Instructional Course Fee: Schools often charge a fee to pay for chemicals, materials, and equipment.
Online Delivery Fee: This fee covers costs associated with maintaining an online learning platform and providing technology support services.
Summer and Winter Fees: Tuition rates may be higher during summer and winter terms. Schools may charge a flat fee or per-credit tuition rates.
Technology Fees: Many institutions charge a technology fee to cover the email system, technology support services, on-campus Wi-Fi, and computer labs.

Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Tennessee

Requirements to qualify for in-state residency can vary by school. However, to qualify for residency, learners must typically show proof of having lived in Tennessee for at least 12 consecutive months preceding the first day of school. Adequate sources of proof typically include a driver's license, proof of employment, and voter registration.

Some online schools and colleges in Tennessee charge all distance learners in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency. Additionally, reciprocity agreements can enable students from participating states to qualify for discounted tuition rates at out-of-state schools. Learners should research all applicable requirements and agreements before applying.

Paying for College in Tennessee: Scholarships and Financial Aid

Although average tuition rates in Tennessee are lower than the national averages, most students still need assistance paying for college. Scholarships and grants are ideal forms of funding since they do not require repayment, and can help learners pay for tuition and educational expenses -- such as textbooks and supplies. The grants and scholarships below are available to learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.

Scholarships for Tennessee College Students

Clubs of AMerica

Who Can Apply: Students with at least a 3.0 GPA and attend an accredited college can apply for this scholarship. Applicants submit a 600-word essay about their career aspirations and an optional YouTube video.

Amount: $1,000

Apply For Scholarship

General Assembly Merit Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Funded through the state lottery, this scholarship supplements the HOPE Scholarship for college freshmen. Applicants must have a minimum 3.75 GPA and at least a 29 ACT score or 1330 SAT score.

Amount: $1,500

Apply For Scholarship

HOPE Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The HOPE scholarship, funded through the state lottery, supports learners entering a two-year or four-year school. Applicants must enroll in a postsecondary institution within 16 months of graduating high school. Adult learners can access a similar scholarship.

Amount: $1,750 to $2,250

Apply For Scholarship

Horatio Alger Scholarship Programs

Who Can Apply: The Horatio Alger Foundation offers funds to high school students who demonstrate financial need and integrity and who have overcome hardships. The foundation delivers more than 70 scholarships.

Amount: Varies

Apply For Scholarship

Tennessee STEP UP Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students with intellectual disabilities. Applicants must have graduated from a Tennessee high school and must maintain residency to reapply each year.

Amount: $1,750 to $2,250

Apply For Scholarship

Grants for Tennessee College Students

Tennessee HOPE Access Grant

Who Can Apply: This need-based grant supports graduates of eligible high schools. Applicants must reside in Tennessee and have graduated from high school during the previous 16 months. Applicants must have at least a 2.75 GPA and a minimum 18 ACT score or 960 SAT score.

Amount: $875 to $1,250

Apply For Grant

Tennessee HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant

Who Can Apply: Former children of the foster care system can apply for this grant. Applicants must meet qualifications for the HOPE Scholarship or the HOPE Access Grant.

Amount: Varies

Apply For Grant

Tennessee Reconnect TCAT Grant

Who Can Apply: This grant helps state residents pay for tuition at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Applicants must be pursuing a certificate or diploma.

Amount: Varies

Apply For Grant

Tennessee Reconnect Grant

Who Can Apply: Students can apply this grant toward tuition and expenses at a community college or technical college. Recipients can also apply the grant to tuition at some four-year colleges.

Amount: Varies

Apply For Grant

Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant

Who Can Apply: This grant supports students pursuing a degree or diploma at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Applicants must have lived in Tennessee for at least one year. Prior recipients cannot reapply.

Amount: Up to $2,000

Apply For Grant

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

Accreditation demonstrates that a school's curricula meet set standards of quality. The accreditation process involves evaluation by an independent agency.

In addition to assuring students of their education's quality, accreditation ensures that employers and other institutions will recognize credits and degrees earned from the school. Many types of financial aid, including federal and state aid, are only available to learners at accredited institutions. The sections below explore the importance of choosing from accredited online schools and colleges in Tennessee.

Regional and National Accreditation

Institutions undergo a voluntary process to receive national or regional accreditation. Academic two-year and four-year schools typically receive regional accreditation, while for-profit and vocational schools often earn national accreditation. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of institutional accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) awards regional accreditation to Tennessee institutions.

Subject-Specific Accreditation

Programs and departments within colleges can receive accreditation from professional agencies and private organizations. Subject-specific accreditation ensures that programs prepare learners to succeed in the field. Additionally, professionals in some industries must hold a degree from an accredited program to qualify for licensure.

How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited

Online resources can help students identify or verify the accreditation status of a school or program. Learners can search directories on the Department of Education website and the SACSCOC website. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation also maintains a database of accredited schools and programs and recognized accrediting agencies.

Online College and Adult Education in Tennessee

The state of Tennessee offers grants and maintains initiatives to help adult learners achieve their academic goals. Online schools and colleges in Tennessee help improve access to higher education for busy students with personal and professional obligations. The sections below include information and resources for adult learners in the state.

By the Numbers: Adult Education in Tennessee

In the fall of 2017, enrollment of adult learners at Tennessee's 13 state community college increased 17.4%.

About 118,000 students take classes at the state's 40 colleges each year.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, 41% of U.S. students aged 30 or older took online programs, compared to 16.8% of students aged 24-29.

Source: Tennessee Board of Regents, Complete Tennessee, National Center for Education Statistics

Adult Education Programs for Tennessee Students

  • Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Adult Education Division: Adult learners can access career development, college preparation, and high school equivalency programs throughout the state. Many local venues offer night and weekend classes.
  • TN eCampus: Through this system, learners can browse more than 450 online courses from Tennessee's 13 community colleges and six state colleges. Students can also find support services, including tutoring and career resources.
  • Drive to 55: The Drive to 55 Alliance works toward the goal of 55% of Tennesseans holding a college degree by 2025. The alliance advocates in the private and nonprofit sectors and provides financial aid.

Online College Resources for Tennessee Students

Students attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee can access online resources for academic and career support. The resources below can help Tennessee students excel in college.

  • Tennessee Board of Regents: Through this website, students can research the state's 40 colleges to find a program that suits their career ambitions. The board also provides information about tuition assistance programs for learners at public colleges.
  • Tennessee Electronic Library: This digital library provides access to e-books, academic journals, and newspaper articles.
  • TN eCampus Virtual Library: Learners can access the full text of various online sources through this library. Users can receive virtual assistance from a librarian on topics such as using databases and citing sources.
  • Tennessee Reconnect: This program helps adult learners, including veterans and service members, begin or return to college. Individuals can speak with an advisor for assistance with the enrollment process and information about credit transfers.
  • GEAR UP TN: The Tennessee Higher Education Commission operates this seven-year, federally funded program. The program helps increase student achievement and promotes engagement among parents and educators.

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